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BIG ARTS should remain a local venue

By Staff | Jun 15, 2016

To the editor:

BIG ARTS, one of Sanibel’s sacred cows, has long been a favorite place for friends and neighbors to meet and enjoy cultural events. The parking lot attendants and the ticket takers are well-known to local patrons. It is a place where we can listen to our friends recite poetry and read their latest creations, a place where we can study great literature, hear music, admire art and discuss current events. Will this personal touch, this sense of community be lost in the Tourist Entertainment Complex?

BIG ARTS plans to support the Tourist Entertainment Complex (Community Center) with millions of dollars. Some, if not all of this money came from Sanibel residents in the form of memberships, donations and ticket sales. In other words, we citizens will not only pay for the Tourist Entertainment Complex with our taxes, but with our past and future support of BIG ARTS.

The current facility is more than sufficient to meet the needs of Sanibel residents. Schein Hall was less than a third filled for the symphony orchestra Christmas concert, the Monday night movies rarely attract more than a 100 people and the popular current events program draws 20 to 30 people during the summer and perhaps a 150 during the winter. The forum is usually sold out, but late comers can almost always obtain tickets due to cancellations. In other words, the only reason to expand the BIG ARTS physical plant is to attract outside visitors.

Almost every event at BIG ARTS, as well as most other island events have “commercial sponsors,” financial institutions, local business and the resorts that feed off of mass tourism. These organizations are more concerned about their bottom line than cultural events. They get good publicity and a tax write-off. Do they expect more? Do they influence decisions that affect our island? Is this their way to promote mass tourism to increase their profit?

The promoters of the Tourist Entertainment Complex claim they are not interested in bringing visitors and tourists to Sanibel. If this is true, then why does the BIG ARTS website with pages for Facebook and Twitter make such a blatant pitch for off island visitors? If this is to be a “community center,” then why is BIG ARTS marketing itself as a tourist destination. See for yourself, check out the BIG ARTS website.

John Raffensperger